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Flashback | Rétrospective

cliff.jpgIn 1942, the last class at RMC for the duration of hostilities graduated, a final parade was held and the college colours were laid up in Saint George’s Cathedral in Kingston, Ontario. For the remainder of the war the College served as a wartime training area, offering courses such as the Company Commanders Course, Military Intelligence Course, and the War Staff Course.

Lt. Col. Frederick A. Clift attended Cdn. Army Staff College at the Royal Military College from June 1946 to June 1947.

A Continuing Adventure: The Memoirs Of Brigadier Frederick A. Clift

The first postwar Staff Course was held in the buildings of the Royal Military College in Kingston, Ont. from June 1946 to June 1947. The Directing Staff consisted of 13 instructors in the rank of Lt. Col., Colonel Rothchild as Director and Brigadier Desmond Smith as Commandant. We, the students, were 65 in number, including 2 from the UK and 2 from the US. We were all veterans of WWII who had not had the opportunity to attend staff college, before or during WWII. We had all been accepted into the Regular Army. We were regarded as a rather “Bolshy” bunch because we tended to talk back. Some of us had more field experience than some of our instructors. However, to make any kind of a career in the Army as an officer, it was essential to earn the initials “psc” (passed staff course) after one’s name in the graduation list.

The Staff Course was a first class educational year. We had to learn to talk and write succinctly and to the point. We even had part of the Dale Carnegie course on “How to Win Friends and Influence People.” War is such a diverse operation that it requires trained staff officers to assist commanders at all levels. And, of course, the commanders must know what they can expect from their staff. The instruction was in the seminar system in which we, the students, guided by the staff, studied the different operations of war. We were required to produce papers on military subjects, to give lectures, to take brief instructions from a commander and turn them into a carefully coordinated operation order for a mixed force. We were coached in the issuance of verbal orders, which is essential in these days of wireless communication. We also had access to the very good library at RMC to study our profession in depth. I remember giving a lecture on General Sir John Moore, the genius of the light infantry approach to battle. I also gave a lecture on the North West Highway System, which we had visited during our two weeks pre-course at Western Command. I also learned to sail dinghies at RMC, and I skied to the College in the winter.

Those students who were single or who did not want to move their families because of the tight housing situation after the war stayed in the students’ rooms at RMC, which I had done until my family arrived. I managed to find a small furnished cottage in Kingston for my family. The CWAC complex across the highway from the Signals School in Barriefield was accommodation for 13 married officer students and their families. The rent in the new quarter was ridiculously cheap at $13.00 per month. As there was no furniture in this accommodation, we had to rent it. We had to stoke the furnace of the central heating system, and I had to set up a roster amongst the 13 apartment dwellers. It was coal fired but the coal was supplied free. Now every quarter, other than mine, required partitions, etc. and washing arrangements had to be shared. Student officers had to make their own alterations. The RCE (Royal Canadian Engineers) would provide materials, but they were absolved from supplying labour except in an emergency. Of course, this “do it yourself” carpentry and painting had to be done at night or on weekends.

I was appointed Chairman of the Barriefield Military School Board, the first in the Cdn. Army. This was a first for the Cdn. Army and my Board were pioneers. There was the problem of paying the teachers’ salaries. The manager of my bank loaned me the money until Army HQ sorted out the problem. The promise was that, in due course, money to support the school would be made available by Army HQ. Before Army HQ had started to pay the bills for our Barriefield Military School, I was over $5000 in debt to the bank. Our Board decided to set up a four room school and have it furnished as soon as possible. We were very fortunate to find four experienced women. We had a good school. As a parent of three children, Barbara, Gerald and Garth, aged 13, 11 and 9 years, I was greatly pleased with the results. The children were happy and my wife and I were so pleased that this school was so close and so well conducted by our devoted teachers. I must say that when Brig. Smith dumped this responsibility on me I knew that it would take many hours of my time, which I expressed to him. But, he replied “you are the best experienced to take this on, and certainly you do not need to worry about your results on the staff course.”

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